FRAMINGHAM – Last week, the City of Framingham decided to reject a proposal to turn the historic Nobscot chapel into a modern-day trading post, with a farm-to-table restaurant and a meeting place for the neighborhood.
Instead the City awarded the RFP bid to the owner of the almost empty Nobscot Plaza site.
His plan for the historic chapel? Move it to the former Texaco gas station site, and construct a CVS on the corner of Edgell Road and Water Street with a drive-thru.
Andy Rose, owner of the plaza, would then submit plans to the City of Framingham to construct a 3-story 41-unit residential building on Water Street and a 4-story, 117-unit residential building on the almost empty plaza site property, along with some commercial space.
But is this the vision residents of the neighborhood have for Nobscot?
The plaza was built in the 1950s, and once was very busy with a Countryfair Star Market, as its anchor.
The Star Market eventually closed, as did every other commercial entity in the plaza, except for a CVS now.
In 2003, Rose signed a lease with the owners of Shaw’s to renovate the plaza and bring a Shaw’s supermarket to the Water Street site.
But two weeks later, Shaw’s was sold.
Rose has told the municipality and the neighborhood, that Shaw’s has a “master lease” on the property for 40 years, with an option for another 40 years
In January 2017, Rose speaking before a Nobscot Neighbors meeting said there are 6 supermarkets, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Shaw’s in Sudbury, and two Stop & Shops within 2 miles of the Nobscot Plaza. (Since then Wegmans has opened at the Natick Mall.) He said the area is saturated with supermarkets, and no one is interested in bringing one to the Nobscot area.
That may be true with the property Rose owns, but it is not true that no supermarket is interested in Nobscot.
In 2012, then Town Manager Bob Halpin, the Town of Framingham, and Framingham Selectmen met with Market Basket about constructing not just one supermarket in Framingham, but two possible supermarkets, including a supermarket in Nobscot.
In June of 2012, the Community and Economic Development Director, the Town Manager and at least one Selectman toured both the former Breyers ice cream property and property in Nobscot, for a possible Market Basket supermarket, according to documents SOURCE obtained.
A deal could not be worked out with the former Breyers site, which was later developed into a Life Time Center.
The Nobscot property was a then “vacant property off of Edgell and Edmands” according to Town of Framingham emails.
That 20-plus acre property is currently being considered for a RCS school, but the site is large enough to fit both a supermarket and the proposed school. The site has access to both Edgell Road and Edmands Road, where the school had proposed its entrance.
In comparison, the vacant Nobscot property site is roughly 6 to 7 acres.
In April 2012, a representative from Market Basket’s real estate division also looked at the then-Mt. Wayte Plaza site, and deemed it too small, according to Town of Framingham emails. That representative told the municipality, Market Basket was looking for a site that was at least 8 acres.
With two sites ruled out as potential supermarkets, the Town and the family-owned chain re-looked at the Nobscot property.
Former Selectman Jason Smith advocated for a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the supermarket chain in an email to Town Manager Halpin in September of 2012, after the Breyers deal could not be reached.
“Let’s enter into a MOU that says the Town of Framingham is interested in continuing our relationship with Market Basket and that we are working with them collectively to find a home here in Framingham,” wrote Smith.
Smith suggested the Board of Selectmen take up the matter ASAP, but the proposed Market Basket idea was never made public at any Town of Framingham meetings.
Smith, when contacted by SOURCE, this week, said the Town Manager after talking to all five Selectmen “didn’t feel he had enough support to continue negotiations with Market Basket.”
The biggest issues were re-zoning the property from residential to commercial, and traffic concerns in the neighborhood.
The property is currently zoned R4, which means only residential development, or a Dover amendment development like the RCS school could be built on the land.
But every year since 2012, residents in Nobscot have attended neighborhood and Town of Framingham meetings pushing for a supermarket at the empty Nobscot plaza.
So the questions still remains, what do the residents of Nobscot want?
The owners of the vacant land, looked at by the supermarket chain and Framingham leaders in 2012, are still open to the possibility of development on the additional land, including commercial development.
For commercial development to happen on the land, a zoning change would be needed.
Currently, the City of Framingham proposed a zoning change for part of that Water Street, Edgell Road, and Edmands Road intersection, called B3 zoning.
The zoning change includes the empty Nobscot plaza, but not the property looked at by the super market chain in 2012.
The Framingham Planning Board, of which four out of the five members live in District 1, is presently conducting a public hearing on the proposed zoning change for B3. The Planning Board also already adjusted the map since the hearing began.
And tonight the public hearing continues at 7 p.m. with the Planning Board at City Hall.
But across the City, there is a Nobscot Neighbors meeting too at 7 p.m. at Heritage with District 1 City Councilor Charlie Sisitsky, District 2 City Councilor Pam Richardson, and District 3 City Councilor Adam Steiner. The Mayor will not attend, but Chief Operating Officer Thatcher Kezer III said he would attend.
After the Planning Board votes on the B3 zoning proposed change, it must still go to the 11-member City Council for a vote. The City Council will hold public hearings before it votes.
So there is still time for residents of Nobscot to voice their opinion of what they want for their neighborhood.
Do they want a supermarket? Does it matter it is located on the east side of Edgell Road or the west side of Edgell Road?
Do they want a historic chapel to remain on the corner or do they want a CVS?
Do they want 3 and 4-story apartment buildings next to the Christa McAuliffe Library branch in the almost empty plaza?
By speaking up residents, have the opportunity to drive the conversation for their neighborhood. Staying silent, gives the owner the ability to push forward with his plans for a corner CVS and more than 150 apartments proposed for the blighted almost-empty plaza.